Editorial

How the Nokia Lumia 920 could be improved

Arguably the market favorite Windows Phone flagship, the Nokia Lumia 920 has been available to purchase on certain networks around the world since November. I've reviewed it already, and I've been using it on and off for some time now, including as a key navigational tool for a recent road trip I went on with a few mates. Its excellent low-light PureView camera and crisp PureMotion HD+ display are some defining and truly great features about the device.

As you may have noticed though, I didn't award the phone a perfect 10/10 score, which naturally indicates that there are some flaws to be found. Had Nokia had more time to develop the phone, or if the technology and costs permitted, there are a few things that I would like to have seen incorporated to make the phone even better.

1. Make it slimmer and lighter

I copped quite some flack in the comments of my Lumia 920 review for mentioning the phone is both thick and heavy by today's standards. All sorts of reasons were thrown around to justify why this is, including that it's "rock solid" and that because I felt the weight I'm "biased" and should "head to the gym", but I absolutely will not back down on the fact that the Lumia 920 is heavier and thicker than it needs to be. 

In a smartphone, weight and size is definitely not a mark of a premium product; in fact it's quite the opposite: The slimmer and lighter your phone is, the better it is perceived not only by consumers (see: iPhone 5), but also tech enthusiasts (see: Droid RAZR). The unnecessary heft of the Lumia 920 (180g, 10.7mm) may make it feel solid, but not any more solid than a selection of other phones I've used, including the HTC One X (130g, 8.9mm), Motorola RAZR HD (146g, 8.4mm) and Nexus 4 (139g, 9.1mm).

I have complete faith in Nokia's research and development team that, if they really wanted to, they'd be able to slim down the Lumia 920 to the thinness of the Nexus 4 while shedding at least 40 grams of weight and keeping in the same awesome technology and keeping it as strong. In fact rumor has it this is exactly what they are doing with their next flagship device, and it's by far the number one improvement that could be made.

If the Lumia 920 was a slimmer and lighter, it would be more accessible, easier to hold, less of a burden on your pocket, visually more impressive, and much easier to recommend as a flagship phone. Before you try and (yet again) justify the heft of the 920, ask yourself this: would you prefer a Nokia Lumia 920, or a slimmer, lighter Nokia Lumia 920?

2. Fix the camera in good lighting conditions

While Nokia spent a lot of time perfecting the camera in low light conditions, it seems their engineers have neglected tweaking how the camera performs when there is actually enough light. The issues stem from some weird automatic white balance, exposure and tinting that can - in slightly imperfect conditions - result in photos that look simply wrong. I covered this phenomenon in more detail in my review, but basically photos often don't look like their real-life counterparts.

Notice the fence on the right? That's not supposed to be green...

I find this disappointing as the majority of my phone photography occurs during the day when lighting conditions are quite good, and I'm sure the same is the case for many other users. For the Lumia 920's camera to truly be one of the best on the market, the daylight performance should be just as good as the low-light capabilities, and the quality should be comparable to powerhouse camera smartphones such as the Galaxy S III and iPhone 5.

Apparently a fix for this is on the way, but as my Lumia 920 has yet to receive it, it still goes on the list of things that could be improved. Plus, there's no guarantees that the patch will fully fix the daylight camera performance and metering, but it's certainly something that can be corrected in the software.

3. Add a microSD card slot

Generally speaking, 32 GB of storage is plenty for everyone to store their favorite photos, music, apps and videos, but I can't help but feel as if a microSD card slot would make the phone better. More options for the consumer should be the mark of a premium product, which is why I find it strange that the mid-range Lumia 820 has expandable storage but the flagship Lumia 920 does not.

Along the top edge of the Lumia 920 is a pop-out slot for the SIM card, and I could have easily envisioned a microSD card slot tucked away somewhere inside there. The fact that the Lumia 820 can have a total of 70 GB of storage (with a 64 GB microSD card) but the Lumia 920 can only have 32 GB just annoys me a little bit, so I would have ideally liked to see a microSD card slot on the device.

4. Improve the front-facing camera

A front-facing camera is not exactly the most used feature on a smartphone, but it's one area where the Lumia 920 is not as good as the HTC Windows Phone 8X. To complement the generally great rear PureView camera, a better front-facing camera with a quality sensor and perhaps a wider-angle lens could have been included. Also, for those people that enjoy creating videos of themselves, 1080p recording through the front camera would be welcome.

5. Kill off the carrier-exclusive deals

This isn't exactly something that could be specifically improved about the hardware or software of the Lumia 920, but more something about the execution of the launch and availability of the device. The Lumia 920's worldwide availability is hindered by a number of carrier-exclusive deals that see the phone restricted, for an unspecified amount of time, to only one network in a number of countries. In the United States, for example, the 920 is available only on AT&T, whereas both the HTC 8X and Lumia 820 (and its variants) are more widely available.

Overall the Lumia 920 is a great device, but these deals are severely restricting the amount of people that have access to the phone. I don't believe that Windows Phone or this device has enough brand power to pull a significant number of people to a certain network (unlike the iPhone, for example), meaning those that currently prefer other networks are left without access to an innovative piece of hardware.

These sorts of deals may benefit Nokia financially, but it's hurting consumers' choices, and also Windows Phone 8 as a whole. Without the ability to purchase a major flagship device running the OS (save for the Windows Phone 8X), people could be swayed to an Android device on the network of their choice, reducing the uptake and exposure of Windows Phone. In turn this leads to less developers wanting to code on the platform and so on; you know how the story goes by now.

Killing the carrier-exclusive deals and letting the Lumia 920 run wild on a wide selection of networks would be a huge improvement to people's access to the phone and the platform.

Got anything else to add? Let us know how you'd improve the Nokia Lumia 920 in the comments below.

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None of the issues bother me but the SD card (whic I used to think was silly) really is an issue for me now. I currently own a Lumia 800 and have been very happy with it and was going to purchase the 920 until my experiences with the Lumia 800 which also doesn't have an SD card slot.

Most people cite the use of the cloud (Skydrive) as a saviour for those who have space issues but that really doesn't help as you often blow your data plan trying to shuffle data between your device and the cloud and it also isn't quick even in good 4G areas (which lets face it isn't everywhere).

I recently spent three weeks in the US so purchased some international roaming data allocation from my provider here in Australia and let me tell you it's not cheap.

We took lots of photos and videos in that three weeks and close to the second week my camera kept freezing after taking a shot. I finally realised (because there appears no way to check space on your device) that my phone was almost full.

So how does the cloud help me when I need to free up lots of space (Lumia 800 with 16GB almost full)? If I had a memory card or two the problem would be solved. Why with even the cheapest digital cameras do you have the ability to use SD cards and yet the latest generation of top of the line smart phones this is not available. I was stuck and had to turn to my trusty digital camera (one more thing to carry around - NOT HAPPY).

So whilst the Lumia 920 has double the RAM I am sure that would not be enough for three weeks worth of daily shooting. Now I am considering purchasing something else like the Samsung ATIV S as it has the resolution and size of screen along with the memory card combination that no other WP can provide (HTC or Nokia).

Agree with #5. Was going to get the Lumia 920, but Rogers coverage in my area is crap. So I had to get the Samsung ATIV S, which is surprisingly decent once you get used to a 4.8" screen.

Agree 100% with exclusive deals. I have had an absolute nightmare getting this phone through my Telstra Business account. ACCC, Fair Trading and TIO complaints later, today, it is finally sorted. And somehow I've ended up with a red one, and a white one! I only wanted one!

Not really a Nokia issue more WP8 but the predictive/T9 needs to know that i is I when used more or less anywhere in English on its own ...

Also the camera issues are resolved with the update Nokia are pushing out to 920 owners around about now.

I miss my iPhone a little and my 9900 sometimes, but I like the 920 a lot.

slimmer and lighter PLEASE. i'm not a wimp, but cmon when the iphone is half as thin it makes the Lumia seem like a brick. ALSO kill carrier EXCLUSIVES

I've had one since the week they became available in the UK, and really like it.
The only thing that I don't like about it physically is the width, which makes one-handed operation difficult. If I hold it in my right hand, I can only just reach the left edge of the keyboard, or the back key, with my thumb (and only then by holding the phone very loosely.) However I don't want to give up any of the screen size either...

Otherwise the weight or the size doesn't bother me at all.

I find the battery life inconsistent. Most of the time it is very good, but sometimes it drops like a stone. I still can't work out what makes it eat the battery.

All my other problems are software or web related. The BBC News website shows text far too small. The Kindle App freezes for 30 seconds if you have no network, and sometimes refuses to start completely. OneNote app also refused to start for a while, and only worked again after I opened up all my notes in the desktop version. I miss not having the Photosynth app. And I can't download Nokia Maps over 4G. I can only do it over WiFi. I don't mind being warned about large downloads, but would like a way to download it anyway. I get 33Mbps over 4G, but only 2Mbps over my WiFi/ADSL.

None of these problems are serious though. If I lost my phone tomorrow, I would replace it with another 920 without hesitation.

The author of this piece is being being extremely disingenuous.
Regarding the 920's weight, "All sorts of reasons were thrown around to justify why this is, including that it's "rock solid" and that because I felt the weight I'm "biased" and should "head to the gym".
By the author's reasoning, the very existence of two relatively weak reasons why the 920 is heavy can only mean that there are no good reasons. This is a blatant misdirection possibly resulting from editorial dishonesty, as the author ignores all the excellent reasons why the 920 is of necessity larger and heavier and instead offers up the two most ridiculous ones that he can think of. With sleight of hands, he digs up the ridiculous while he fails to mention that the reasons for the weight and heft are 1: a built in wireless charging plate; 2: a lens with hardware OIS; 3: three HAAC microphones. Combined features that no other phone in existence today has-lighter or heavier, and therefore the real culprits behind the added weight and heft.
Now, the author can either choose ignorance, bias, or dishonesty for misleading his readers in this manner. I think I know which it is, but am open to his explanation.

1Rahtid said,
With sleight of hands, he digs up the ridiculous while he fails to mention that the reasons for the weight and heft are 1: a built in wireless charging plate; 2: a lens with hardware OIS; 3: three HAAC microphones. Combined features that no other phone in existence today has-lighter or heavier, and therefore the real culprits behind the added weight and heft.

Don't dig up crap on where the weight comes from. The wireless charging coil is merely a few grams, the OIS assembly can't be more than 5g due its size and the microphones weigh barely anything.

The tech in the Lumia 920 DOES NOT contribute to its weight. Nokia has used thick, heavy polycarbonate in combination with a sizable slab of glass to create most of the weight. The Lumia 820 is also heavy for its size (160g) and it doesn't have the same tech but has the same sort of build.

Scorpus said,

Don't dig up crap on where the weight comes from. The wireless charging coil is merely a few grams, the OIS assembly can't be more than 5g due its size and the microphones weigh barely anything.

The tech in the Lumia 920 DOES NOT contribute to its weight. Nokia has used thick, heavy polycarbonate in combination with a sizable slab of glass to create most of the weight. The Lumia 820 is also heavy for its size (160g) and it doesn't have the same tech but has the same sort of build.

Even so, picking a phone that is durable while sacrificing a few grams is worth it to me.

But to people who prefer lighter and skinnier... Well Nokia will be addressing that in the next wave of phones, built with Aluminum.

I'd expect this to be a more 'attractive' phone, and most likely a replacement to my current 2yr old phone.

I write this on my lumia 920...

its an awesome phone!

weight is not an issue at all. For me the phone has a presence because of it... You know its in your pocket and not been left on the train or you desk at work.

one crash in 2 months that required a soft reset, which when i compare to my android, would crash daily even hourly. This was my reason for dumping android.
i love my lumia, looks nice, is extremely fast with little to no wait time.

my wish list for the device tho...

1/ removable battery
2/ Spotify, oh how i miss you so... But im told its on the way... Who knows when????
3/ i want to swype on my on screen keyboard

as for everything else it does it, and does it well

I still don't think it needs to slim down. I, and I'm sure many others like a little 'heft' to their phones. What's with the stupid 'slimming down' obsession of late?

And I agree with the SD Card slot + Removable Battery would be awesome.

javagreen said,
I still don't think it needs to slim down. I, and I'm sure many others like a little 'heft' to their phones. What's with the stupid 'slimming down' obsession of late?

And I agree with the SD Card slot + Removable Battery would be awesome.

The iPhone 5 is about as slim as I'd want a phone. Even then its a bit too flimsy.

The real issue people should look at is Durability and Build Quality.

the weight is so overstated. it is a bout a slice of deli ham versus the iphone 5. If I wanted a cheap feeling phone, I'd get a galaxy/Ativ

I would have to disagree with all. Absolutely love this phone, having owned all iPhones till 4s model. No regrets here having left the ios group.

I didn't buy a Lumia 920, this is a review unit. You're welcome to also read my article on how the HTC 8X could be improved (which I also didn't buy)

The Lumia920 is a finished product.
There isn't anything about the physical design to be improved, as this was the way it was designed.

1, 3 and 4 could be points taken under consideration when designing the Next Lumia.
Damn pseudo journalist techies thinking they've uncovered some huge problem affecting sales when the only issue affecting sales is #5 and general supply chain management.

#1 is nothing but a subjective opinion of the Editor.

I would like to see you compare this phone to the Ativ-S and then tell me how you'd improve that. It's got an even bigger screen, is aluminum, has MicroSD slot and is lighter. Of course Music through the headphones is light and tin-like with no real low end bass through the stock headset

This editorial should have been titled, "Why I should have purchased a Samsung Ativ-S", rather than some weak journalistic criticism of a fine product.

Sebastian Hoffmann said,
#6 cut off price off about 30% and let marketshare increase to push the overall wp8 platform

Oh yes, this too. If you want more marketshare, then tone the prices down a few notches. It's almost as expensive as the iPhone 5 over here.

Why do people need to rehash the same things over and over while they have been discussed to death.

Guess it's a slow news day then eh..

I agree with you comments about size, but not weight. People like things that feel substantial. The iPhone 4 was always lauded for it's build quality and solid feel. The 4S weighs more than a One X or a GS3. The iPhone 5 sheds some wieght, but relative to it's size, it's still heavy.

The problem for me with the 920 was that's it's weight was combined with poor handling which made the practice of using it with one hand feel very precarious.

i like the weight of a phone personally and the build quality but i will say if they added a quad core CPU like the S4 pro then we would see top notch performance like in games and would kill the iPhone in performance. period

Ezekiel Carsella said,
i like the weight of a phone personally and the build quality but i will say if they added a quad core CPU like the S4 pro then we would see top notch performance like in games and would kill the iPhone in performance. period

This is the problem with Android-ia. They want quad core without knowing do they really need even for hardcore gaming. Please don't say i want to play Crysis like games in 4" screen.

The main issues for me are size, weight and carrier exclusives. All the other stuff is pretty insignificant.

I DONT want the next Lumia 940 (or whatever its called) to be made of aluminium though. It's the cheapest weakest metal around. It's junk, it's why drink cans are made of it. Many types of plastic are stronger and more durable, and obviously plastic doesn't dent like metal either.

geoken said,
Make sure to tell Boeing and Airbus about how weak aluminum is.

Oh they know. They count on it for their machines to have a certain amount of flex going from sea level to 25,000'

geoken said,
Make sure to tell Boeing and Airbus about how weak aluminum is.

The 787 is a fiber composite design...because of its strength characteristics. Allows for larger fuselages at higher pressurization.

I wouldn't have detected the sarcasm if I wasn't in the metal buying business. Aluminium is definitely not the cheapest metal.

Enron said,
They should make the phone out of helium, so it will be lighter and extra durable.

YES. The insides will be sealed off from the outside world, and this will contribute to a lighter design. Anyone who tries fixing the phone themselves will immediately add to its weight.

This isn't Lumia-specific, but I'd like to see more advanced wifi options. I can't connect to my work's private wireless network because I can't set more advanced wifi settings.

The problem I've had with the camera is when trying to scan bar-codes/QR-codes/etc. I can't ever seem to get a decent enough scan when I try and I'm not sure why.

completely agree with #5. It's the reason the Lumia has no presence here in Canada. Rogers has an exclusive and they're not even marketing it

Exactly. I wanted the 920 but wasn't willing to switch to Rogers just to get it. That exclusiveness doesn't really help them in the end.

Indeed lol. Here in the UK it's exclusive to the EE group of networks... Orange, T-Mobile and of course EE 4G. For a number of weeks I frequented the Nokia facebook wall and twitter posting #exclusivitysucks messages everywhere I could.

I then gave in and bought one Sim Free from Phones4U... unfortunately though they decided to re-define the term "Sim Free" with this phone, which meant it was still locked to EE group networks.

I've now got a one month rolling contract with Orange, and a CellUnlocker.net request in to get the phone unlocked so I can go back to Vodafone again.

What a nuisance.

totally agree.
My wife is really starting to get upset with me buying rogers phones outright to use on my chosen carrier.
Samsung Focus
Lumia900
Lumia920 (x2)